The J-League resumed following the recent international break with no draws in the fourth round and several home crowds satisfied by big wins.
Kashima Antlers 3-1 Sagan Tosu
(64′ Kanazaki, 76′ Shibasaki (PK), 78′ Endo / 7′ Taniguchi)
In the first of two Friday-night games, Antlers recovered from an early deficit to breeze past Sagan Tosu.
Recent national team call-up Gen Shoji nearly opened scoring a minute into the game when his inquisitive shot from distance required a fingertip save by Sagan goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi.
Just five minutes later it was Hiroyuki Taniguchi who scored the first goal of the match with a diving header off a free kick.
Antlers fans had to wait until after halftime for an equaliser, this goal also a header courtesy of Mu Kanazaki.
The next two goals came in rapid succession, as Gaku Shibasaki’s 76th-minute penalty was followed two minutes later by Yasushi
Endo’s clever effort from the edge of the area.
Gamba Osaka 3-1 Nagoya Grampus
(45+1′ 49′ Usami, 80′ Konno / 63′ Nagai)
Fresh off his senior international debut, Takashi Usami returned to Banpaku Stadium with an impressive brace in Gamba Osaka’s rout of Nagoya Grampus.
As national team coach Vahid Halilhodzic looked on, the 22-year-old broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time with a bouncing shot that deflected off a Grampus defender and into the net.
Usami added to his tally with a close-ranged shot just four minutes into the second half for his fourth of the season.
Grampus clawed back to a one-goal deficit just after the hour mark after Kensuke Nagai snuck the ball into the net during a post-corner kick scrum, but midfielder Yasuyuki Konno buried his first goal of the season to restore his side’s two-goal lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Vegalta Sendai 2-1 Shimizu S-Pulse
(62′ Wilson, 90+5′ Watanabe / 12′ Shirasaki)
Vegalta Sendai moved up to second place in the table following a comeback win against Shimizu S-Pulse.
Ryohei Shirasaki struck first for the visitors in the 12th minute with a well-placed header on the far post.
Teammate Genki Omae was denied a goal of his own in the 30th minute when his powerful shot was tipped over the crossbar by Yuji Rokutan.
Brazilian striker Wilson made his presence known in the 62nd minute when he headed in the equaliser.
The winds continued to shift against S-Pulse in the 79th minute when defender Jakovic was shown a second yellow card for an egregious foul.
The visitors were reduced to nine men in additional time when Yosuke Kawai received a straight red, and Vegalta took advantage of their numerical superiority with Hirofumi Watanabe’s game-winner minutes later.
Montedio Yamagata 1-2 Shonan Bellmare
(45+2′ Romero Frank / 9′ Takayama, 25′ Fujita)
Two first-half goals gave visitors Shonan Bellmare a deserved win over fellow promoted side Montedio Yamagata.
Kaoru Takayama took advantage of a Montedio defensive error in the 9th minute to put his side in the lead, but it was teammate Seiya Fujita’s 25th-minute shot from outside the area that drew the most cheers from visiting fans.
Romero Frank’s wide-angled shot on the verge of halftime reduced Bellmare’s lead to a single goal, but the Tohoku side were unable to find an equaliser.
Urawa Reds 1-0 Matsumoto Yamaga
Over 37,000 fans were rewarded for their patience with a brilliant Ryota Moriwaki goal as Urawa Reds overcame a stubborn Yamaga defence.
The hosts had no shortage of chances against the newly-promoted J1 side, who engaged in a spot of psychological warfare by electing to switch sides after the coin toss.
After 23 shots it was Ryota Moriwaki who delivered the killing blow with a perfectly-placed shot from outside the penalty area with five minutes remaining.
The result keeps Reds in first place, although all three of their league victories this season have come against promoted sides.
Kawasaki Frontale 4-1 Albirex Niigata
(22′ Sugimoto, 58′ Renato, 71′ 87′ Okubo / 83′ Rafael Silva)
Frontale were dominant throughout the match, which was observed by Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
Winter arrival Kenyu Sugimoto scoring his first goal for his new club in the 22nd minute.
The goals continued to pile up in the second half as Renato’s brilliant run through several defenders for a second was followed by a goal from veteran striker Yoshito Okubo.
Albirex found a consolation strike through Rafael Silva to make it 3-1, but Okubo responded with a second goal to make the day a happy one for Frontale fans.
FC Tokyo 1-0 Ventforet Kofu
Tokyo continued their winning ways with a solid defensive effort against “Blue and Red Derby” rivals Ventforet.
33-year-old Naohiro Ishikawa was the hero of the match after he deftly received Takuji Yonemoto’s deep pass and sent a brilliant left-footed effort past Ventforet goalkeeper Kota Ogi.
Tokyo had a chance to make double their lead following a handball call against Ventforet midfielder Koji Noda, but captain Masato Morishige’s effort from the spot hit the post.
Fine goalkeeping by Shuichi Gonda gave Tokyo a clean sheet, but the substitution of star striker Yoshinori Muto following a hard tackle will surely be cause for concern.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-1 Vissel Kobe
Vissel Kobe took a welcome three points from Sanfrecce in a rain-delayed match at Edion Stadium.
Marquinhos nearly opened scoring for the visitors in the 12th minute when his low free kick bounced off the post and into arms of a diving Takuto Hayashi.
Referee Masaaki Toma called both teams off the pitch in the 31st minute as lightning fell nearby, and even after play resumed over 20 minutes later the wet conditions proved tricky for the players.
As both teams traded opportunities late in the match, it was Keijiro Ogawa whose low shot slipped past Hayashi’s fingers and into the back of the net to give Vissel the win.
Kashiwa Reysol 1-2 Yokohama F. Marinos
(31′ Leandro / 73′ Ito, 83′ Shimohira)
Reysol showed little bite on the attack as Marinos won at Kashiwa Stadium for the first time since 2008.
While the visitors set the pace early on, the hosts took the lead in the 31st minute when striker Leandro found himself with plenty of time to place his shot into the net on a superb Reysol counter attack.
Marinos manager Erick Mombaerts’ second half decision to replace midfielder Fabrio with striker Sho Ito turned out to be a wise one as the 26-year-old scored a brilliant header for the equaliser.
The comeback was complete just ten minutes later when Takumi Shimohira scored the game-winner with a sliding shot in front of thousands of Marinos supporters who made the cross-Kanto trip.